Union County commissioners are making plans to proclaim Dec. 8 as “Confederate Pensioners of Color Day.”
The move coincides with the unveiling of a privately-funded marker at the Old County Courthouse honoring 10 black men from Union County, nine of whom were slaves, who served in the Confederate Army.
Long after the war ended, they received small state pensions for their service in the Army. Commissioners recently directed county staff to prepare a resolution with the proclamation for them to take up at a meeting this week. It’s the latest move to honor men who were basically dismissed by history.
While it’s impossible to know how many of the men willingly followed their masters into war and how many were forced, supporters of the plan called it an appropriate, if overdue, recognition of their service.
Virtually no black men fought in battle for the South, historians have said, but the Confederacy readily used slave labor for support and logistical work, including cooking and building latrines. The 10 Union County men were listed in official records as “body servants” or bodyguards.
Plans are being firmed up for the unveiling of their marker, which will go in the walkway in front of the existing Civil War monument that dates to 1910.
The ceremony is set for 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Old County Courthouse, said Tony Way, who is organizing the event. He led the charge over the past couple of years to have the men recognized on the grounds of the 1886 courthouse.
The keynote speaker will be Earl Ijames, an early supporter of the project who is curator of community history and African-American history at the N.C. Museum of History. Ijames also will bring some Civil War-era artifacts, Way said.
The actual unveiling is scheduled to be done by Archdale resident Mattie Rice, the 90-year-old daughter of Wary Clyburn, one of the men being honored. Clyburn died in 1930 at about age 90, when Mattie was 8.
Way expects other descendants of the 10 men to attend, including cousins Aaron Perry and Greg Perry, the great-grandson and the great-great-grandson of former slave Aaron Perry. The two Perrys also may be inducted into the ranks of the Sons of Confederate Veterans at the ceremony, Way said, depending on if their paperwork is finished in time.
Costumed Civil War re-enactors, national and state leaders of the SCV, and a color guard also will be on hand.
Way was considering trying to get permission to have a cannon salute. But concerns over liability led him to go for a salute from re-enactors firing muskets.
The cost of the marker is about $2,450, Way said, and the private fundraising is just a couple hundred dollars short of that goal. It will cost another $500 to $600 for the event program and a commemorative ribbon listing the men’s names in the program.
People who want to help fund the marker and dedication ceremony may make a check out to “Union County Pensioners Monument Fund,” and mail it to UCPMF, PO Box 1755, Indian Trail, NC 28079.